We all have something unique about us. Knowing exactly what your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) is and being able to communicate this effectively can be very useful, in several career/work situations.
The following 4 exercises will help you uncover your skill-set or competency package, identify your strengths, and write a Strengths Profile & USP.
You can write down the exercises in your own format, or use this workbook, depending on your preference.
The word ‘achievements’ can make some people uneasy because it has connotations with things like coming first in a competition, winning a gold medal or climbing the world’s highest mountain ! However, an achievement is simply an action you have taken with a successful ending.
Looking back over your life, note the achievements you’re most proud of – in any area of your life. Write these down. Your achievements could be work-related, or to do with what you do in your spare time – your leisure activities. They could be academic or school or college related activities. Write down what you are most proud of in your life.
1(b). Skills used in Achievements
For the achievements you have written about, list the knowledge and skills you used in achieving that result.
2(a). List Your Work Skills
Write a list of the skills you used in your work. As well as the skills you used in your most recent job, list those from previous jobs as well.
2(b). Other Specialist or Technical Skills
If you attended any specialist or technical training or educational courses, you may have developed certain specialist or technical skills associated with this course. List any specialist or technical skills you have gained.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What am I really good at?
- What skills do other people compliment me on or associate me with?
- What do I do that is unique and that sets me apart from my peers? Or what skill(s) do I have that is unique and sets me apart from others?
4. Survey others about your strengths
Identify up to ten individuals who can give you accurate feedback about your strengths.
This group should include current colleagues, but also, ideally, former colleagues, friends and family members. Tell them it’s an exercise related to your professional development and that you’re not just fishing for compliments (which would be embarrassing for all concerned)!
Ask them to think about what your strengths are, and to give an example to back up every strength they identify. The strengths don’t need to be specifically work-related. In fact, if you’re unhappy in your current job, it’s particularly important that you get feedback from people who know you from outside a work context, as they may identify real strengths that you have which you’re unable to display at work.
[If you wish, you could also ask them what they see as your weaknesses – and again, ask them for specific examples.]
If you are too shy or embarrassed to ask people to tell you about your strengths, you can write what you imagine these people might say about you. The result will still be useful, though not as useful as the actual feedback from these people.
Identify themes in the responses: Once you have all of the responses in from your survey group, start to group the responses together into themes. Some of the themes may reflect strengths you were aware of, but they may also identify things that you hadn’t realised were strengths because they come so naturally to you.
5. Pulling it all together – writing your strengths profile
Draw together the key strengths that have emerged from your analysis, and tie them together in a few paragraphs that summarise what you’re really good at.
This ‘strengths profile’ is useful to revisit anytime you are feeling low or when you find the going tough – it’s a great confidence booster!
However, its purpose here is to help you write your USP – your Unique Selling Proposition.
6. Your USP – Unique Selling Proposition
In business, it’s much easier to make a profit by offering a higher-priced product that uniquely meets someone’s needs. This is why uniqueness is such a highly valued attribute.
Similarly, the person who most uniquely suits the role gets the job. And the person who’s unique and irreplaceable skills help an organisation the most, gets the highest rewards in terms of pay and benefits. Indeed, some top salesmen frequently earn more the CEO!
Your Strengths Profile is only a starting point in defining your USP or Unique Selling Proposition. This collection or package of strengths – your skills and knowledge, are a stand-alone statement of your competencies. However, a USP is more than this. It is a statement of your unique collection of competencies related to a specific purpose – and in relation to résumé crafting or any other aspect of a job search, this means a specific job and employer.
Your USP needs to be targeted
So in defining your USP, you need to know what competencies are needed for a particular purpose.
Let’s use the example of a situation where you are looking for a job, or writing a resume. In this case, you should know what strengths are valued by the specific employer for that specific job. Your personal USP will be the package of competencies that you can offer. But you won’t know what sort of customised package to offer, or develop, unless you analyse what is it that makes people successful in the role(s) you desire, and unless you know what competencies are most highly sought by the employer for that specific role. You can deepen your knowledge of this ideal package by researching the people who are successfully currently work in that role or job type.
- What skills and personal qualities do they possess?
- What skills-set do the people who excel in this field have?
- What skill set does the organisation they work for value?
It is critical that you identify the most valuable characteristics, so spend a sufficient amount of time on this stage. If you are analysing yourself based on factors that the employer, or industry doesn’t value, then you are wasting your time – if no one cares that you can write well, then don’t include it as a valuable characteristic.
6(a). Rank Yourself Against Others
Now that you know what characteristics and competencies are valued for your purpose, you need to know how your own skill-set or package of competencies measure up. Remember, this exercise is designed to figure out how you can best market yourself using a combination of skills.
This doesn’t mean you have to be the best at any individual thing. What it means is that you need to understand and develop what you’re good at, so that you can firstly pick the opportunities most likely to suit you, and secondly concentrate on building your skills to give you that unique edge.
As you go through this exercise, it’s really important that you remain objective and simply concentrate on evaluating yourself and others against the actual skill or competency being analysed. You don’t want to get personal. This isn’t about being better than anyone else – it’s about marketing yourself in the most effective way and working to add extra “product features” to make your USP truly unique.
It’s also important to remember that when you encounter a skill where you are not ranked highly, this does not mean you can’t be successful at the job, and nor does it mean you can’t pursue the opportunity. What it indicates is that you need to have a well-thought-through strategy for dealing with this. Perhaps you should emphasise the combination of skills you have and other areas where you excel, while also setting a goal to develop further skill in your weaker area.
Determine the top five to eight valuable competencies for the job you are interested in. Make sure that you include technical skills as well as soft skills and attitudes. Then give scores out of ten (where 1 is poor and 10 is excellent) for these top characteristics or competencies for yourself, for “average people” in the field, and for two identified high performers at the job.
6(b). Develop your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) Statement
You are now in a position to start writing your USP statement.
Start with the list of competencies where you’re top ranked. These are the obvious competencies you should stress in your USP. You can then move to the other characteristics you ranked highly in and ask yourself:
- Which of these reinforce areas where I’m top ranked?
- Do any of my strengths counteract my areas of weakness?
Next, look at your areas of weakness. Being realistic, will they severely impact you or are there things you can do to neutralise them?
Beyond that you need to look closely at the highly ranked competencies of your benchmarks and identify those areas where you can further develop your skills.
Spend a few minutes pulling these points together into a clear and simple USP statement for this opportunity and record it below. Then look at the USP, and think about what sort of organisation would be looking for someone with that USP.
Here is an example:
I am an effective communicator who excels in understanding the needs of customers in the ABC industry, communicating those needs clearly and accurately, and guiding the development of effective solutions to those needs.
Before you finalise your USP, make sure that it is realistic. Put yourself in the minds of the people who are the “gatekeepers” of the opportunity, and ask whether it stacks up as something that will matter decisively to them. Secondly, make sure that the USP genuinely suits you, and captures the essence of who you are. People will quickly see through you if you’re a fake.